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Cruise ship heading home with Ebola scare passenger in isolation

The woman is said to have no symptoms and to be at low risk to the guests and crew.

File photo
File photo
Image: Cruise Ship via Shutterstock

Updated 9.30pm

A HEALTHCARE WORKER who may have come in contact with fluids from an Ebola patient who died in Texas is now on vacation on a cruise ship, the US State Department said.

The woman is not showing symptoms of the disease and is voluntarily remaining in their cabin.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed the since deceased patient’s fluid samples,” the department said in a statement.

But the State Department is working with the cruise line “to safely bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution,” it said.

The ship did not get clearance to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. A day earlier, officials in Belize would not allow the woman or her spouse to leave, a Carnival Cruise Lines spokeswoman told Associated Press.

On its way home

The cruise line said the ship was now on the way to its home port of Galveston, Texas, for its originally scheduled return of Sunday morning.

The cruise company said that the woman, a lab supervisor traveling with her spouse, remained in isolation “and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew.”

This employee left on a cruise ship out of Galveston on October 12.

The employee did not have direct contact with the since deceased Ebola patient, but may have had contact with clinical specimens collected from him.

This was a reference to Liberian sufferer Thomas Eric Duncan, who died in a Dallas hospital October 8.

The woman left the United States on the cruise ship before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its requirements for monitoring of people who may have had contact with Duncan, the statement said.

Eric Lupher, a journalist, is on holiday aboard the ship, and has been tweeting about his experiences:

“Botched attempt”

West Africa Ebola Healthcare workers in protective gear work at an Ebola treatment center in the west of Freetown, Sierra Leone Source: AP/Press Association Images

The World Health Organization admitted making mistakes in failing to control the outbreak still spreading in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The UN health agency said in a draft internal document obtained by The Associated Press that “nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall.”

The response was marred by incompetency and ineffective bureaucracy, the document said, and experts should have realised that traditional containment methods would not work in an African region with porous borders and broken health systems.

Training survivors

The UN has begun training Ebola survivors to help respond to the soaring number of cases in West Africa, because people who’ve overcome the disease are now immune to it.

Survivors are being trained to work with children in Liberia and Sierra Leone who’ve had contact with infected people, often family members, and require 21 days of isolation.

A new drug

A North Carolina drugmaker plans to test its experimental antiviral drug in patients who have Ebola, after getting authorisation from regulators at the Food and Drug Administration.

Chimerix Inc said it has received FDA clearance to proceed with a trial examining the safety and effectiveness of its brincidofovir tablets. The drug is available for immediate use.

The FDA does not publicly confirm when it has granted companies permission to begin testing. The agency has not approved any drugs or vaccines to treat Ebola.

- © AFP, 2014 - additional reporting the Associated Press

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